Beckman Fellow 2010-11

Ryan C. Bailey


Bailey imageMicroRNA-omics: Developing a Global Analysis Platform for Tiny Regulations

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been established as an important class of small post-transcriptional regulators. They are estimated to regulate more than thirty percent of all human mRNAs and are known to play roles in such biological processes as developmental timing, stem cell differentiation, and the development of cancer. To date the complete functions of miRNAs, including their complex interconnectivity, remain a mystery. And given their very small size, gaining these insights is a formidable analytical challenge.

During his Center appointment, Professor Bailey will lead his research group in developing a new biomolecular detection platform that holds potential to revolutionize miRNA analysis. The platform is based on arrays of silicon photonic microring resonators. These circular-shaped optical cavities repeatedly direct light around their perimeter, which causes interference between photons circulating the microstructure and those traversing the adjacent linear waveguide. When a miRNA binds to an appropriately functionalized microring, the wavelength of optical resonance shifts by an amount directly proportional to the concentration of the target present in the sample.

The platform, which is intrinsically scalable due to its reliance on semiconductor fabrication methods, holds the potential for rapidly and simultaneously determining expression levels of many miRNAs within a single sample and with minimal processing, opening the way to global profiling of the human miRNA-ome. Such a breakthrough would yield results analogous to the technology-fueled booms of genomics and proteomics and would answer a number of questions regarding the functions of complex organisms